I don’t like to have to put companies on blast. I hate that we live in a world where the only way to get good customer service is to publically shame companies and call them out. They should not be awful to me because I’m a human being and a customer, not because I’ve got lots of Twitter followers and a readership. But sometimes a company, in this case two companies, work so very hard to give you the absolute worse customer service experience you can imagine that the only possible conclusion is that they wanted their bad behavior shared with the world as publically as possible and I guess I have to comply.

Ready for this one?

On February 15th, a charge appeared in my PayPal account from a company called Teapplix. I had never heard of them so I did some Googling. They aren’t even a service I would use, they bill themselves as “A multiorder shipping software for online sellers. It supports eBay, Amazon and most popular shopping carts.” which is something I have never had a need for. In my panic over this unauthorized charge, I discover they have an eBay third party app. (I was so flustered that my PayPal had been hacked, I actually ended up accidentally activating their service for a minute before disabling it a second later once I realized what I did so I’m sort of terrified to know what they’ll do to me after that.) I also went through our internet history and I had only ever visited the site exactly once before, months ago, from a link in a TameBay article and had never logged into either their app or service. Even if somehow I clicked some super magical “charge me money for no reason” button by mistake, it would be pretty obvious to anyone looking at it that I had never so much as visited their site, let alone used their service.

As much as I am thinking the worst at this point, I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt so I email the company. No reply. But PayPal’s always promising they have our backs so I start the unauthorized claim charge. This should be pretty cut and dry. I’ve been billed for a service I’ve never used with a company I’ve never heard of. But 10 days later, I still don’t have a refund and the claim says it’s waiting on a reply from me… but doesn’t give me a form to reply again.

Teapplix replies to PayPal, though. They provide tracking number for this service of theirs I allegedly am a user of. That tracking number is “tracking # no tracking.”

Ha! You say. What a bunch of scamming scammers! PayPal should refund this right away, right? Yeah… about that.

I emailed PayPal when they said I needed to reply but didn’t give me a form to. I finally get a response to that email. It reads, “We’ve reviewed your account and see that your seller has provided a tracking number.”

Can we just talk about the advanced levels of idiocy going on here? PayPal has trained a customer service rep to accept a sentence that says  there is no tracking number… as a valid tracking number. Like, how badly does their training have to have broken down for that to happen? I have had so many wonderful experiences with PayPal support when they were under eBay and apparently everything has gone completely to hell if they are now accepting admissions of no tracking number as a tracking number.

In the meantime, I email Teapplix again. I am very reasonable, pointing out that they need only to look at their service and see that I am not a customer and have never used their service. I give them all the benefit of the doubt even though, at this point, I’m mentally thinking of them as “those Teappricks.”

Do they reply? No. THEY ADD ME TO THEIR MAILING LIST. Can we just take a moment to appreciate what a masterful dick move this is? They make an unauthorized charge to my account and, when I email them about it, take that email and use it to subscribe me to their mailing list without permission. This is epic level trolling. I’m almost impressed if by impressed I mean that I cannot believe a company would behave like this. Two wrongs still haven’t made me a refund, yo.

So now I’m freaking pissed and I’ve started tweeting about this mess. It takes PayPal five days to respond to my tweets. FIVE DAYS! To respond to a TWEET. More like SLOWcial networking, am I right?

The sloth from Zootopia working their AskPayPal account promises to help me get this refund squared away once and for all. I wait. Two days later, I ask for a status report and they send me an email reply.

Their email reply reads,

We’ve completed our review of your account and found that your account is secure and has not been accessed by an unauthorized third party. As a result, we’ve closed your unauthorized transaction claim.

If you’re unhappy with your purchase, we encourage you to work with the seller to find a resolution. If you can’t find a resolution, you may file a dispute in your Resolution Center.

If I may translate this form letter Frankenstein, they decided the fraud charge I filed a claim on didn’t happen (don’t try to think about what sense that makes, it ends with you going back in time and becoming your own grandfather) and closed my claim and their recommendation is that I… open a claim. Look, I have worked in customer service for a big company. I know how it is. But holy cow, can you at least have your reps reread the emails before they send them so they can make sure they at least make some basic sense? I find it very hard to believe an actual human would have written this message and hit send.

Now Mama is pissed. I start this blog post and I tweet fire. To his credit, MH from AskPayPal finally gets back to me and takes care of the refund right then and there… a mere 16 days after I first reported it. Now, they added a passive aggressive note to the refund, “As a one-time goodwill gesture, we have issued a credit to your account. Thank you for using PayPal.” because taking two freaking weeks to refund this fraud charge is a special favor for me and not their actual job or anything. But I have my refund and I didn’t have to murder anyone to get it so this is as close to a happy ending as we were going to get. Of course, Teapplix also still has the money since my refund came from PayPal itself, but at least they are stealing from PayPal now instead of me.

There are three big takeways of this. The first is that PayPal has clearly had some huge changes in customer service since the split and not for the better. I don’t know what the heck is going on over there but it’s clearly in need of some serious work behind the scenes because YOWZA was that a mess on many levels. With the exception of that final Twitter interaction, which is what they should have done upon the first interaction, every interaction I had with their CS was a mess which doesn’t speak well for their ratio of good to suck over there.

The second is that Teapplix clearly does not give a single crud about their customers or their public impression which doesn’t say anything good about their company. The lack of customer service or handling the situation at all coupled with the straight up trolling of sending a sales blast in response to an unhappy customer service email isn’t just sloppy and unprofessional, it’s reflective of a company that comes off as straight up toxic to work with, even taking the original charge out of the equation. I don’t understand their strategy at all. Wouldn’t it make more sense not to deliberately troll an angry customer and try to convert them into a fan instead? It sure would to me.

But the last and most frustrating thing about this is that I would not have gotten a resolution to this mess if I hadn’t thrown my proverbial weight around on Twitter. That’s fine and dandy for people with a following but that shouldn’t be how it is. A company like PayPal shouldn’t be able to walk all over you unless you’re “somebody” online, it’s like holding people without social klout hostage and that’s just plain wrong.

The irony is not lost on me that for all this talk from PayPal, eBay et al of how us sellers should handle customer service, the service providers we rely on seem to think the same rules don’t apply to them…

Photo by hans.gerwitz